Tag Archives: urban farming

FoodCorps Group Tours Alabama Sustainable Farms

Went to Montgomery, Ala., last week to tour some sustainable farms, as part of our NCAT Gulf States Office mission to promote sustainable agriculture in the 5-state region. It was a bringing together of some real heavyweights when it comes to local food, urban ag and community activism.

Members of the NCAT Gulf States Regional Office, Mississippi Roadmap to Health Equity and FoodCorps service members pose with EAT South Executive Director Edwin Marty (right) in Montgomery, Ala., Oct. 16, 2013. From left: front: FoodCorps Members Mariel Parman, Claire Brown and Rebecca Rosenthal; Roadmap Executive Director Beneta Burt and NCAT Ag Specialist Felicia Bell; back row: FoodCorps Director Willie Nash, FoodCorps Fellow Liz Broussard, NCAT Gulf States Regional Director Rockiell Woods and Marty. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

Members of the NCAT Gulf States Regional Office, Mississippi Roadmap to Health Equity and FoodCorps service members pose with EAT South Executive Director Edwin Marty (right) in Montgomery, Ala., Oct. 16, 2013. From left: front: FoodCorps Members Mariel Parman, Claire Brown and Rebecca Rosenthal; Roadmap Executive Director Beneta Burt and NCAT Ag Specialist Felicia Bell; back row: FoodCorps Director Willie Nash, FoodCorps Fellow Liz Broussard, NCAT Gulf States Regional Director Rockiell Woods and Marty. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

The FoodCorps service members who went on the trip seemed to have a good time and learned a lot. I can’t say enough good things about FoodCorps. Those who are based at Mississippi Roadmap for Health Equity next to our office at the old New Deal Grocery in Jackson are top notch! I see them every day going out to the local schools helping kids and moms appreciate fresh, local food that they grow right there at the inner city schools.

I also can’t say enough good about Roadmap Executive Director Beneta Burt, who has created a food oasis in the inner city of Jackson. Roadmap is located in Ward 3, the poorest of the city’s wards. She started a farmers market, providing a place where people in the neighborhood can come buy fresh, healthy, nutritious food locally.

She put in a fitness center so that neighborhood moms and elders can stay in shape. She started a summer school program that teaches kids good health habits and the importance of fitness and nutrition. She sponsors the FoodCorps volunteers for the local public schools.

She muscled through a rule with the capital city’s school board that food service personnel in the public schools can actually get paid to take fitness classes (which, in turn, make them more fitness aware in creating the food in the public schools). She’s a pillar of the state food policy council. And more than I can ennummerate here. Suffice it to say, she’s a real powerhouse.

Now, with this visit to Montgomery, Ala., she’s seen how E.A.T. South Executive Director Edwin Marty has created an urban ag program in the inner city there. E.A.T. stands for Education, Act, Transform! The organization encourages healthy lifestyles through education and sustainable food production in urban areas throughout the Southeast.

Burt had already started such a program; she was able to see how an established program works. E.A.T. South ushers some 5,000 school kids through its site annually, offering a demonstration for local folks there on how to grow their own food.

I can’t say enough good about Edwin, either. He literally wrote the book on urban agriculture, called Breaking Through Concrete, published by the University of California Press in 2012. See: www.breakingthroughconcrete.com.

I’m honored to know and be friends with both people. They certainly are incredible role models. If every city had a Beneta Burt and an Edwin Marty this would be a much healthier, happier planet!

E.A.T. South Executive Director Edwin Marty (left) of Montgomery, Ala., is shown with Beneta Burt, of Jackson, Miss., executive director of Mississippi Roadmap to Health Equity Inc. , and Jim Ewing, outreach coordinator for the National Center for Appropriate Technology Gulf States Region. (NCAT photo)

E.A.T. South Executive Director Edwin Marty (left) of Montgomery, Ala., is shown with Beneta Burt, of Jackson, Miss., executive director of Mississippi Roadmap to Health Equity Inc., and Jim Ewing, outreach coordinator for the National Center for Appropriate Technology Gulf States Region. (NCAT photo)

For more, see:
NCAT blog: https://www.ncat.org/gulf-states-office-tours-sustainable-farms-in-alabama/
Mississippi Roadmap to Health Equity: http://mississippiroadmap.org/
E.A.T South: http://www.eatsouth.org

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook, follow him @edibleprayers or visit blueskywaters.com.

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Urban Homesteading: Grow Your Own Sandwich

July 12, 2012

Urban Homesteading: Grow Your Own Sandwich

You don’t have to have a large  garden spread to grow your own organic food. In
fact, you can grow  plenty of food to supplement your diet in a small space.
While  growing enough grain for bread might be a challenge in, say, a small
apartment or tiny yard, you can grow nutritious grain sprouts anywhere  to add
to your sandwiches.
Start  with one to four tablespoons of food-grade organic seeds. Put them in a
wide mouth jar, and cover the jar opening with nylon mesh or tulle  cloth from a
fabric store and affix it with a rubber band. Add water,  swirl it around and
drain. Repeat the water, swirl and drain cycle twice  a day for three to six
days, and you will have sprouts ready to eat.
A  word of warning for growing sprouts: Use only food-grade organic seeds,  as
some seeds are poisonous. Also, non-organic seeds could be  contaminated with
food-poisoning bacteria. Several online companies  offer food-grade organic
seeds specifically for sprouting, including  Johnny’s Selected Seeds
(johnnyseeds.com) and Peaceful Valley (groworganic.com).
Good  sprouts to grow are lentils, garbonzo beans, mung beans, red clover,
sunflowers, radish, rye, winter wheat, alfalfa, arugula, broccoli,  buckwheat,
canola (non-GMO) and adzuki beans.
For  those who are more ambitious — and have more room or access to a  community garden plot — you can grow your own sandwich. With 100 square  feet (a 10-foot by 10-foot plot), you can grow enough amaranth, barley  or rye to bake bread twice a month for a year.
You will have to buy (or rent) a grain mill, or find someone who grind grains in
small quantities. Peaceful Valley (groworganic.com), offers a hand-cranking
grain mill for $149. A bread maker would be nice, too.

Bread From Your Garden?
If you’re interested in growing  grain in your garden, a good book on the
subject is “Homegrown Whole  Grains” by Sara Pitzer (Storey Publishing, 2009,
$14.95).
As  Pitzer notes, in a 10-foot-square plot, backyard farmers can grow  enough
wheat to harvest 50 pounds in a single afternoon—and that can be  baked into 50
loaves of fresh bread.

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.

Animal ID Plan A Blow to Local Food Movement

Animal ID Plan Punishes Backyard, Urban & Small Organic Growers

By Jim PathFinder Ewing

It’s hard to believe that the U.S. government is attempting to force animal identification on farmers again.

But as the Cornucopia Institute has pointed out (http://www.cornucopia.org/2012/06/5385/), the U.S. Department of Agriculture is resurrecting the proposed national animal identification rule that many thought dead due to massive outcry a year ago.

The rule would subject cattle and poultry owners across the country to new tagging and paperwork requirements that could collectively cost hundreds of millions of dollars, as Cornucopia points out, yet the USDA has designated the final rule it’s proposing as “not economically significant.”

Huh? Small poultry and livestock farmers would be unfairly and tremendously burdened by the cost of this regulation. Many likely would be put out of business or young farmers or beginners decide that the regulatory burden was too much to start. And this is for a problem (tracking diseased animals) that is overwhelmingly the result of large confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs), not small farmers.

It’s more of a blow to the local food movement than a “solution” to giant industrial farming abuses in the food system. In fact, it seems designed to specifically target and deter small farmers, backyard farmers, and urban farmers. Why? Because it requires extensive documentation and ear tags or expensive transponders with electronic chips implanted for each animal — goat, horse, pig, chicken — for them, while whole herds are treated as one animal for CAFOs (no fuss, no bother!).

These records are for any and all animals, except dogs and cats, but including cervids. If for any reason, a tag or ID device is removed (like, the animal died), it and its documentation must be kept for five years! If you think doing your income taxes each year is fun, add keeping records for your goat and backyard chickens — including those carried off by a fox, died of natural causes, or you ate. Regarding the rest of your flock, you won’t be able to sell them unless they have documentation, and you cannot buy animals without documentation, you cannot transport your animals without documentation and documentation about you and your records are kept on state and national registries to ensure compliance. (Maybe they ought to call it the national small farmer ID system!)

There are more regulations here for owning a chicken than for owning a gun!

Happy Easter, little Johnny or Sue, here’s your baby chick! …. And here’s the 29 pages in the Federal Register of regulations that go with it!

This proposed regulation fails for a number of reasons:

— It would make outlaws of most backyard poultry owners and small farmers who mix birds with their neighbors and grow their own flocks.

— It’s at odds with a government trying to cut costs, for taxpayers, businesses and consumers.

— It would be an “unfunded mandate” for states to track animals, adding regulatory staffs and paperwork even as they are cutting essential services like firefighters, police and schoolteachers to make ends meet.

— It would add red tape and expense to every step from farm to fork but mostly financially punish those who aren’t the problem — and act as a regulatory block and deterrent to new small businesses.

Small farmers everywhere — and the organizations that represent them — must join to block this unnecessary and damaging potential regulation.

Note, this is not legislation that can be voted on; it’s a proposed executive order that, unless stopped, likely will go into effect with the signature of the president’s pen.

Contact your senator or representative. Surely, reason must prevail to stop this regulation.

For more, see the Cornucopia Institute — www.cornucopia.org.

Or, The Farm & Ranch Freedom Alliance — http://farmandranchfreedom.org/Animal-ID-2011

Read the proposed rule at: www.aphis.usda.gov/traceability/downloads/2011/Proposed%20Rule.pdf

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.

Urban Farming: No Room? Look Up!

No Room? Look Up!

May 30, 2012

For would-be urban farmers, the solution to lack of space may be as simple is looking up.

Rooftop farming is sweeping the nation. In April, The New York Times announced that Bright Farms, a private company that develops greenhouses, plans to create a sprawling greenhouse on a roof in Brooklyn. The company expects to yield a million pounds of produce per year in what may well be the largest rooftop farm in the United States, occupying up to 100,000 square feet.

It’s also not the only Brooklyn, N.Y., farm. Brooklyn Grange, another rooftop farm developer, is set to open a 45,000-square-foot commercial operation at the Brooklyn Navy Yard this year, as well. Plans for rooftop gardens totaling 200,000 square feet are under way elsewhere in the five boroughs of New York City. The developers’ vision is to provide fresh, nutritious food in the communities where the gardens are located.

For artistry, however, few cities could match the achievement of Mexico City. Here, a nonprofit company called VerdMX has created vertical gardens called eco-sculptures. Not only do these vertical gardens provide green space in urban areas, they also sequester carbon to help prevent climate change, provide fresh air and, in some instances, grow food for the people.

Helping the planet and feeding ourselves is only limited by our imaginations.

If you live in an apartment or have no yard space for planting, check out other locations for a garden. Perhaps, even, a rooftop!

Rooftop Urban Farm in NOLA
In New Orleans, herbs grown locally on the rooftop of Rouses Market, a few blocks from the French Quarter, will soon be finding their way into local chefs’ dishes. Managing partner Donny Rouse says his store is the first grocery in the country to open an urban farm on its roof.

“The flat rooftop on this store is perfect for urban farming,” Rouse said in a release. “And the view of downtown is postcard-perfect.”

It’s set to open Thursday, May 31, one day before New Orleans kicks off its second annual “Eat Local Challenge” (nolalocavore.org). Participants agree to eat only food produced within 200 miles of New Orleans. To find out more, visit tinyurl.com/c85dfu3.

Jackson Rooftops
The Old Capitol Inn, a bed and breakfast at 226 N. State St., has what might be considered a “traditional” rooftop garden—not an urban farm, but a space where guests can enjoy greenery and downtown views. Call 601-359-9000 or visit oldcapitolinn.com

Unconventional Spaces
For photos of unconventional growing spaces from around the world—and one designed by a local architect—see Jackson horticulturist Felder Rushing’s website: tinyurl.com/7u3s2fy

Before You Build
Make sure to have a licensed professional inspect your roof before you consider building a rooftop garden. Soil and water can be quite heavy, and you must ensure that your house or building can bear the load. Check with an architect for simple designs that won’t harm the integrity of your roof or become a hazard in high winds.

Trellises, windowsills and stairs are great for containers holding food-producing plants, but again, be careful to ensure safety. For some great projects, ideas, designs and resources, visit rooftopgarden.com.


Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.

Don’t have much space for organic garden? Grow up!

Jan. 21, 2010
Don’t have much space for organic garden? Grow up!

Folks who live in urban areas or apartments may sometimes feel left out of the grow-your-own organic food movement.
Don’t! In addition to community supported agriculture, where churches, civic groups, neighbors and/or farmer/entrepreneurs often offer urban gardens, it may only take a little ingenuity to be growing wholesome, nutritious food.
For example, pots or buckets on apartment balconies (even on high rises) can offer great spots for winter greens or summer tomatoes.
For those with no yard to speak of, like a town house, if you have a garage, you can plant in a wheelbarrow and simply roll it out during the day and back in at night.
But one of the most creative compendiums of ideas for the garden challenged is a new book: Vertical Vegetables and Fruit: Creative Gardening Techniques for Growing Up in Small Spaces by Rhonda Massingham Hart (Storey Publishing, $16.95).
Although the book is mostly devoted to small plots, that is, people who have a few feet of actual ground to work with, it also gives ample instructions on other ways to grow in small spaces, such as using hanging pots, buckets and pruning techniques.
It also gives good tips for varieties of plants, seeds and soil requirements.
Primarily, though, it emphasizes a fact that many folks may have overlooked: “Every square foot of garden space comes with a bonus 6 cubic feet or more of usable growing space above it.”
Maybe for some folks in urban or cramped quarters now is a good time to start planning for spring with a new outlook.
In other words, it’s time to get vertical and grow up!

Paula Deen’s larding it on: I’m disappointed that Paula Deen, who has made a fortune showing people how to cook fried foods, didn’t take the opportunity of announcing her Type 2 diabetes this week with a change of lifestyle.
She could have made an impact in diabetes prevention.
Instead she announced her illness saying that she’s actually had it for three years – and was unapologetic about her role in promoting unhealthy diets, saying that people should eat what they want. The point seemed to be her having inked a contract with a pharmaceutical company for an insulin alterative drug.
But why not eat a healthy diet to help prevent diabetes to begin with?
Taking her at her word, Deen achieved fame promoting unhealthy diets and now indeed must bear personal responsibility for her choice. She now will also be an example of what not to eat.
Mississippians, listed as having the most obese people of any state and suffering all the ills of poor diet – diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, joint problems and reduced physical mobility – should take note.
A balanced diet and moderate exercise can do wonders.

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.

Organic, urban, backyard farming can turn ‘Big Ag’ around

Nov. 18, 2011
Organic, urban, backyard farmers can turn ‘big ag’ around
Why I support organic backyard gardening, urban farming and community-supported agriculture: There’s a huge knowledge gap in farm country today.
People like my father, who grew up in the 1930s Depression, knew how to grow and prepare their own food on the farm self-sufficiently.
People today think rural areas are filled with the farms of that time, and the marketing on television seeks to perpetuate that myth, even down to only picturing 1950s-era tractors in their photos of lush farm fields.
But agriculture today is all about industrialization, for plants and animals.
Many farmers today don’t know how to grow food. They grow commodities – corn, soy, rice, etc. – that’s planted by machines mile after mile and hauled off and processed into semi-synthetic “food products.”
Many farmers today, even owning thousands of acres, don’t – and don’t know how to – grow their own food, much less for anyone else, or even want to do it. That knowledge is fast disappearing, or gone in big farm areas. Rural people are as dependent on grocery stores, fast food, junk food and reprocessed commodities
(fake food in a fancy package) as anyone else.
Our rural state is filled with “food deserts,” areas where there is no fresh produce for sale, anywhere. Our state is also a food importer; we no longer provide our own communities with food.
I’m pushing 60 and live out in the country, but few people here grow their own food. I do know how to grow a turnip. A lot of rural folks, young and old, wouldn’t know what one looks like, much less how to plant it, grow it, prepare it and eat it.
Some young people are taking to backyard farming and urban farming, both of which are growing as a nationwide trend, which may be the salvation of American (and rural) self-reliance.
Robert Rodale, a founder of the organic movement, wrote prophetically shortly before his death in 1990 in his book Our Next Frontier: “The highly productive home gardens of tomorrow will, I think, be the sprouts from which many new small farms will grow. The small-scale farmers of the future can hardly learn their craft in the land-grant colleges, which preach bigness in almost every way. These new farmers will start as gardeners and grow from there. I think that we will see the size of gardens increase, so that the distinction between a large
garden and a small farm will become blurred. The new wave of small farms will fill in the chinks of land made available as some of the old-style farmers are driven out of business by ever-bigger farming conglomerates.”
His prediction of bigness driving out small farmers has proven true; enough so, that much or most of that wisdom is gone. (Look to your elders! They are a fast-disappearing resource!)
But there’s still hope that young people will reject the agri-biz juggernaut and learn to provide for themselves and their families, friends, and neighbors, and return some food independence to the people, and food sovereignty to the nation.
Why should we willingly be hungry beggars to the multinational corporations that hold no allegiance to any nation or people but their own profit?
Feeding ourselves and our families and sharing our abundance can indeed feed the world, or at least add substantially to it.
Food: I noticed that Rainbow Natural Foods in Jackson has been selling (Organic Valley) raw milk cheeses in the dairy case. I bought some. Pretty good! Wish we had some local cheeses.
Online: Here’s a great place to order artisan raw milk cheeses online: www.artisanalcheese.com
Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.